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Spinning1 Another War?
Publication date: 2002-09-06

Now that the War on Terror doctrine has been used to justify the Afghan war and the Israeli war against the Palestinians, and still another war is to be unleashed against Iraq, it is time to examine the techniques used by the proponents of theses wars to justify their actions.

The task of justifying the Afghan War before the World, was entrusted to Tony Blair. The arguments used by Tony Blair and his supporters were as follows:

 ArgumentTrue?TruthValid Reason for War?
1Osama bin Laden is responsible for the Events of 9/11.UnknownOsama bin Laden has never acknowledged that he is responsible for these events.

The only alleged proof that he is responsible was a video tape where it appears as if he says that he would have thought that the damage would be limited only to the adjacent floors of the building, and the whole building would not collapse. From this it was deduced that he knew about the events of 9/11 beforehand and was responsible for them.

Three questions arise in connection with this video tape:

  1. Is the tape genuine?
  2. Do the words allegedly spoken by Osama bin Laden imply that he had prior knowledge of the events?
  3. If he had prior knowledge of the events, was he responsible for them?

The answers to theses questions are:

    1. The tape was produced by the American government claiming that it was found by American soldiers in a cave previously uses by Osama bin Laden.
    2. Osama bin Laden has never acknowledged that this tape was his.
    3. Such tape can be fabricated by an amateur video enthusiast, let alone by the CIA, who had interest in production of such tape.
  1. The surprise that the whole building rather than only a part of it collapsed does not imply any prior knowledge of the events. I heard exactly the same words from a number of people who observed the collapse of the buildings on TV screens - they expressed their surprise at the total collapse of the buildings. So these words on the tape do not prove any prior knowledge of the events, even if to accept that the tape is not a CIA fabrication.
  2. Even, if Osama bin Laden did have prior knowledge of the events, it does not mean that he was responsible for them. The events could have been caused by some other group, of which Osama bin Laden had knowledge, but over which he had no control, or influence.

So the tape is not a proof of Osama bin Laden's responsibility, which would have been accepted by an impartial and competent court of law. And the tape was produced not before the start of the war, but after the end of it.

The Taliban government were consistently saying at the time that they would have handed over Osama bin Laden, if the US government had presented evidence that he is responsible for the events of 9/11. They also insisted that he should be tried by an impartial court of law in a neutral country. These were reasonable demands. But instead of complying with these demands the Americans started their war against Afghanistan without justification.
2The Americans had right to attack Afghanistan, because they acted in self-defence.False There was neither evidence, nor allegation, that Afghanistan either attacked or was about to attack the USA. The American demand was to hand over to them a suspect (Osama bin Laden), whom the Afghanis agreed to hand over to a neutral country subject to evidence. The most that can be said is that the USA were seeking extradition of a suspected criminal. A plea of self-defence can only be justified, if there exists either a current attack, or an imminent attack which cannot be averted except by use of violence. No such situation exited in this case.The use of the plea of self defence in this case by the Americans was not justified, and could not justify the war.
3The Taliban are not a government, but a "regime". As the meaning of the word "regime" is just a government of which a politician using this word disapproves, insinuating lack of legitimacy, it is meaningless to talk of the truth of that statement.The word "regime", in the sense of "a government we disapprove of" was a standard term used in political press during the Cold War. In the Soviet press various countries allied to the USA were invariably referred to a "regimes", in the American press the same term was applied to Soviet "satellites". Tony Blair revived this word to vilify the Taliban and justify the American war against them. It was amusing to see how he pronounced this word with heavy emphasis, and then looked at the audience to see whether this vilification technique has worked.Calling the government of a country a "regime" is not a valid reason for war.
4The Taliban government harbour terrorists. Politicians use the word "terrorism" as a denunciatory label. Whether an armed group is called "terrorist", or "friendly forces", "freedom fighters", etc. depends on the political objectives of politicians. The meaning of that word, as used by politicians, is "non-regular armed forces of which we disapprove". So to talk about truth of that statement is meaningless. Osama bin Laden came to Afghanistan, originally, to help the Afghanis to drive out the Soviet Army which occupied Afghanistan. After the war he set up some training camps in Afghanistan to train various Muslim fighters, who were involved in the wars in Palestine, Chechnya, and East Turkistan. From the point of view of the Taliban government, Osama bin Laden was their former ally in the war against the Soviets and his training camps were seen as help to Muslim fighters, whose struggle was similar to that, the Afghanis waged against the Soviets. Moreover the Americans themselves used to support Osama bin Laden and his activities in the past. So, to expect that the Taliban would change their attitude to Osama bin Laden and his activities overnight just because G. Bush or T. Blair chose to call them "terrorists" rather than "freedom fighters" was unreasonable. The only justification for a war would have been, if it would have been proved that the so called "terrorists" were either attacking or about to attack the USA, which was not the case at the time.
5The Taliban government mistreat their women. This is an allegation that cannot be answered as 'yes' or 'no', because 'mistreat' in this case is a matter of opinion. By mistreatment of women they meant obligatory covering of body and hair in public. This is a Muslim custom, the purpose of which is to prevent sexual harassment of women and to restrict sexual relationships to married spouses only. It is a known fact that sexual promiscuity, that is sometimes advocated as freedom, has resulted in an AIDS crisis in many parts of the world, as well as to spread of other sexually transmitted diseases, break down of the traditional family and much suffering for women. Observance and even enforcement of a traditional custom is not a valid reason for war.
6Afghanistan is the greatest opium producer in the world. Without specifying the time during which this statement is true, it is misleading and is aimed to suggest that the Taliban government was engaging and encouraging production of opium. This suggestion is false.It is true that before the Taliban came to power growing of opium in Afghanistan was common. But the Taliban banned this activity as unislamic. After the Taliban government was removed by the Americans, the growing of opium was resumed. So blaming the Taliban for opium production in Afghanistan was a deception of the public by Tony Blair. Since it was a false accusation, it was not a valid reason for a war. But, even if it were true, it still would not have been sufficient reason for a war.
7The Taliban are a failed government. Again it is a matter of opinion. The Taliban government came to power as a result of attempt to put an end to looting, raping and wanton violence in Afghanistan. The Taliban had succeeded in stopping the anarchy that preceded them. They have not succeeded to make Afghanistan into a prosperous country, but there are many other poor countries around the world. Creating prosperity needs more than stopping looting and raping and takes substantial time. Replacing the Taliban government with Hamid Karzai imposed by the Americans, has not made Afghanistan into a prosperous country, but the pre-Taliban looting and raping has returned, except in areas of Kabul which are patrolled by foreign peace keeping forces. Hamid Karzai could not find sufficient number of his compatriots for his own bodyguard, and has to be guarded by American soldiers. No other head of state in the World enjoys such popularity among his countrymen.Poverty of a country is a reason for assistance not for war.
8The evidence presented by us would not be accepted in a court of law, but the public should trust us. FalseConsidering that all the above arguments were either false, or irrelevant or logically invalid, it is not clear why politicians should be trusted without evidence. A war can lead to massive loss of life and destruction of property. A war can be only justified in cases of genuine self-defence. To approve a war on a statement of a politician, who is known for his spinning habits, without a strict proof of the facts alleged by him, is either gross stupidity, or deliberate connivance with that politician in his crimes against humanity.
9Are you not sorry for the 6,000 Americans? The fact that some 6,000 Americans died is true, but this question was asked not just to assert the fact itself, but to imply that anybody who is questioning any of the actions of the proponents of the Afghan war, was cruel and not sorry for the deaths of the Americans. This question was a stock reply used by the proponents of the Afghan war to counter any question to which they could not give a favourable for themselves answer.

This is an example of emotional blackmail by political demagogues. Many people confronted with this question either retreated from pursuing their argument, or answered something like, "Of course I am sorry for the Americans", and then withdrew. The correct answer to this question would have been, "The fact that 6,000 Americans died does not mean that anything you do is right. My question to you is ..., you are trying to avoid it. Please answer my question".

Many people accept false arguments from political demagogues, because they do not know how to put them in their place. Tony Blair knows this. This is why, when asked by a journalist about how he is going to justify continuation of the War on Terror, he said, "We shall be reminding people about September the 11th".

The use of such intrinsically dishonest technique by political demagogues does not justify any of their actions, but makes a powerful case for criminalisation of demagogy by people holding public office, as a particular instance of fraud.
Summary: All the arguments by T. Blair to justify the Afghan war were either false, or irrelevant, or logically invalid.Tony Blair was not concerned that his statements in support of the Afghan War were true, relevant and logically valid. All he was interested in was to "put his point across", regardless of its merits. The result is that he discredited himself, because not all the people were so gullible and misinformed as to believe him. What is still worse for him is that he deceived himself. Having deceived himself that he won a "just" war, he became more arrogant, and will continue on his ego trip until in the end he miserably fails. But this can happen after a long time, may be even after his death. All arrogant politicians eventually fail. Hitler failed in his life time. Stalin died at the peek of his power, but after his death was cursed by all mankind.The Afghan war was started without any valid reason. The arguments used by politicians to support that war show the need for legislation to protect the public from fraud by politicians.

We have seen above how Tony Blair and his supporters used false, irrelevant and logically invalid arguments to justify the Afghan war. The result of this war was wanton devastation of a poor country, and deaths and maiming of thousands of innocent people, and apart from some relative peace in Kabul within the area controlled by the foreign peace keeping forces, return to the anarchy of the pre-Taliban days.

Now the Bush and Blair team are about to unleash a war on Iraq. And they will be trying to justify it by the same techniques they used to justify the Afghan war. Now that we know the tricks they use, we can use that knowledge to counter their false and illogical arguments.


Notes:   -----   to top

1) The word "spinning" means presenting a governement policy in a favourable light so as to achieve electoral popularity. It was brought into fashion by Tony Blair's New Labour who brought this activity to the level of an industry. People engaged in spinning are called "spin doctors". In the past this activity was called propaganda.

This is how Benjamin Netanyahu described propaganda (or spin) in his speech at the Jewish Agency Assembly Plenary meetings held in Israel on 24th June 2001:

"In the 21st century, you cannot achieve a military victory unless you achieve a political victory to accompany it; and you cannot achieve a political victory unless you achieve a victory in public opinion; and you cannot achieve a victory in public opinion unless you persuade that public that your cause is just.

It doesn't make any difference if you are on the side of the angels or on the side of the devil. Anyone fighting in the international arena for public opinion must argue the justice of his cause. Hitler argued for the justice of his cause and Stalin argued for the justice of his cause. They all had propaganda machines. Whether you are right or you are wrong you must argue the justice of your cause."

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